08 – Food Touched by Unwashed Hands

https://ph.yhb.org.il/en/02-08-08/

We learned (in halachah 3) that because the ruach ra’ah rests upon one’s hands in the morning, one must not touch food or drink before washing his hands. Regarding a Jew who touched items of food without washing his hands, the ruling is as follows: if it is a dry food, like fruit, that can be washed, he should rinse it under water three times. Just as the washing of each hand three times purifies them, so will this washing purify the fruit. However, if he mistakenly touched drinks or food that will become ruined when washed, although there are those who are stringent to dispose of them for fear that the ruach ra’ah rests upon them (Od Yosef Chai, Toldot 6), according to most poskim, even those foods that cannot be washed are permitted to be eaten.

There are two reasons for this: first, because according to the majority of poskim, the ruach ra’ah on one’s hands does not have the ability to render food unfit for eating (Chayei Adam 2:2; Mishnah Berurah 4:14; Aruch HaShulchan 4:15). Although, regarding an alcoholic beverage, such as liquor, there are poskim who are stringent. In any case, it is agreed among most poskim that all other foods do not become invalidated by the touch of unwashed hands (Bei’ur Halachah 4:5 s.v. “Lo”). Furthermore, there are those who maintain that the ruach ra’ah has been nullified from this world (as brought in halachah 4) and there is no need to fear its damage. Therefore, one should not discard or waste foods that were touched by unwashed hands.

Similarly it is permissible l’chatchilah to buy bread or other food that is sitting on a store shelf, even though there is concern that it was touched by Jews who did not wash their hands in the morning. This is because, as we have already learned, according to most poskim, food is not invalidated by the touch of unwashed hands. Additionally, there is doubt as to whether these foods were actually touched by someone who did not wash his hands in the morning. Moreover, almost all people usually wash their hands in the morning, and it is said in the name of the Arizal (Od Yosef Chai, Toldot 8), that even washing one’s hands once is useful in weakening the power of the ruach ra’ah.

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